In the tale of my body, Judith Ortiz Cofer talks about the skin of her body, color, size, and even the looks. Judith proposes that our bodies play a very important role in our communal life. Appearance is the first symbol of personality and identity that an individual reveal. Many individuals judge others how they appear and not their behavior. The dissimilarities of size, color and race can lead to the rise of many uncomfortable conditions in our adolescence. Cofer tells us about the story of her body and the various situations that she has gone through. One of the challenges she wrote about that many children suffer from isolation because of their looks. By accepting the concept that the gender roles are communally created might not be too hard, but it may be a surprise to many when they realize the way they see their bodies are sieved by social beliefs and values. Judith proposes that people can overcome all the mistaken judgments by revealing their talents, for example, writing and this is what led Judith to write about the story of her body.
Judith tries to explain to us how she was a born as a white lassie in Puerto Rico but she changed into a brown gal when she moved to the United States to live there. Her relatives from Puerto Rico always called her tall but some classmates who are rough to her called skinny skeletons, and the shrimp because she was the shortest gal in all her classes. Judith became ill from chicken pox which left her entire body covered with abscesses and due to panic she scratched her body and permanent scars were left on her face. Because of these scars, Judith felt embarrassed and she grew her hair long so that she could hide them with the hair and that is how she learned to be imperceptible.
Judith tells us that in the animal kingdom, color represents danger and the most poisonous creatures are those ones that are colorful. Color in the human world is used to trigger many compounds and frequently fatal actions. Cofer said that the color of a person is much more mutual in the chat of people whose races are mixed than in the conventional United States. When she was growing up, people used to call her 'Blanca' meaning white person. While she was in Puerto Rico, she overhead many talks concerning the skin color some of which very disconcerting themes to discuss. For example, you could hear a pregnant lady saying that she hopes her baby will not turn out to be a Prieto meaning a black person.
Judith's first experience about color preconception happened in Paterson, New Jersey while she was in a supermarket. By this time, she was old only by eight years and she loved took look at the toys which were well displayed in the store where she always went to buy stuff for her mother. The store was owned by three Italian good-looking brothers and the two older brothers did not seem to like her because they watched her and other children from Puerto Rico as if they were thinking of stealing something from them. This unkind brother is the one that started to call Judith colored. The older brother who was dressed up in apron that was stained with blood always talked to her in a punitive voice enquiring if there anything that he might help her with but the younger one would look at Cofer, smile, and then wink at her.
It was on Christmas time when she was chased out of the store by the older Italian brother when she tried to touch Susie the school teacher doll because she had admired her for a very long time. Although she was not doing anything wrong, the brother who serves meet shouted at her as if she was trying to steal the doll. He said, "hey kid, what do you think you are doing?" (Cofer 267). Judith was very frightened that she stood there without looking at him and she felt humiliated because she knew that everybody in the store heard the man yelling at her. The man approached Judith and then she started to ran away because she was scared. The man yelled at her saying, "Do not come here unless you are going to buy something. You Puerto Rico kids put your dirty hands on stuff and you always look dirty," (Cofer 267). He even added saying that "maybe dirty brown is your natural color," (Cofer 267). Judith explains to us that the man always looked dirty in his apron and he used to sweat a lot because it revealed huge yellow loops below his shirt-sleeves. When she was sitting near the apartment where they used to live, she looked at her hands and she reassured herself that she was not pink in color as her friend Charlene and her sister Kathy who had light brown hair and blue eyes. Judith went and cleaned her hands meticulously with hot water and soap like she always did and she was pleased with the outcome. She did this so that she could be clean enough to touch Susie's golden hair before she was brought home to her as a Christmas gift.
When Judith was twelve, she was one inch taller than her mother who was only four feet tall. Her mother used to tell her since she is now tall, this dress will look decent on you if you wear it. With the color of her skin, Judith did not think about her size or height 'til other individuals made it an issue. Her size related problems began on the sports field and the playground where every child wanted to compete hard so that they could show how better they are than their partner. Since she was short and skinny, Judith preferred reading a novel rather than grunting, sweating and risking her life out of injury and pain. This made her lose interest in competitive sports. Judith performed very well in her classwork but she performed poorly in Physical education class and her teachers compared her to grade C. the girls who disliked her always called her shrimp and also referred to her as a non-athlete who is hopeless.
During her P.E lessons, the games captain did not choose her to be in the team unless the teacher ordered so. The tall girls were chosen very first like the fish but Judith who thought herself as a small brown tadpole, nobody was interested in her until the teacher would shout her name and ordered her to join one of the teams. Judith was very disappointed with her skinny body and when she saw an advert on the television about Wate-On, a product that was being taken by skinny men and women so that they could become fat. She tried to explain to her mother about the importance of the product but her mother resisted that and she told her to eat more food so that she could get fat. Judith imagined how she could revenge on her teachers and the girls who disliked her if she wondered woman and that is what comforted her in her early career.
Judith was very pretty and as she grew older all eyes were on her. Cafer also tells us that a proprietor offered her candy because she was Bonita meaning pretty. When moved from Puerto Rico to a Catholic school, she thought that she will go there and still be called pretty, but there was a hierarchy of admiration. The hierarchy talked about many pretty girls from different parts of the world, for example, pretty Jewish lady, beautiful black girl and so on. Whenever there was a competition at school and the key requirement was presentability, the classroom's civic addresser would request the prettiest girl or boy to be the representative, for example, escorting a visitor to or from school. Some of the people did like how Judith looked and she gives an example of when she stepped the playground and one of the boys from Puerto Rico said "what do you think you are doing?" and the other guy tormented her saying " her face is pretty but her legs look like toothpicks." Judith and her friend discussed how Jackie their fellow classmate would let one strap fall off from her shoulder and every boy in school was attracted to her. Cafer and her friend tried to do like Jackie but the results were very different because they had no hips or big breasts.
Judith also explains to us how she was impressed with the way Ted looked like, all she said is that Ted was a pretty white man. Ted had planned to take Judith on a date on Saturday but his father refused when Ted showed him Cafer's picture and he said that people Puerto Rico look like rats and he was not impressed by the looks of Judith.
Cofer, Judith Ortiz. "The Story of My Body." Women in Culture: An Intersectional Anthology for Gender and Women's Studies(2016): 267.
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